From one of the great political journalists of our time comes a boldly argued reinterpretation of the central event in our collective past—a book that portrays the American Revolution not as a clash of ideologies but as a Machiavellian struggle for power.
Draper's elegantly written, masterful study overturns many preconceptions about the causes of the American Revolution. Before 1763, he observes, the status quo worked largely in favor of the 13 colonies. The Americans dominated the governors sent to rule over them. British customs agents winked at New England smugglers' flourishing trade, and farmers and merchants prospered. But in 1764-1765, the British imposed unpopular taxes and trade restrictions that, combined with Mother England's attempt to reduce the power of the colonial assemblies, brought separatist fervor to the boiling point. To justify the ensuing power struggle, America's ruling elite developed a revolutionary ideology, couching their self-interest in terms of liberty and inalienable rights. Distinguished historian Draper (A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affair) further argues that the British, having allowed themselves to become economically dependent on the colonies, desperately sought to control colonial trade and manufacture. Drawing freely on period pamphlets, letters, petitions, travelogues and assembly minutes, he vividly evokes the populist discontent, intellectual gymnastics and mob violence that led to revolution.